Author(s): Tim Coghlan
The ubiquity of images and visual information that marks our contemporary experience is hardly a revelation. With little more than an errant search engine entry or a the scroll of a smartphone screen, we can unearth a glut of photographs, animated gifs or video content that would have proved impossible to access only a decade or so ago. But amidst the morass of images that drown the digital present – not to mention the cloud of desensitisation that rises in its wake – some photographs still hold the acute charge and resonance they always did. These images, no matter the context and specificities of their history, their making, their presentation and their dissemination, continue to conjure fear, offence, antipathy and otherwise. Melbourne designer and publisher Tim Coghlan has built his output around the results of both wayward and strategic Google Images searches. His latest and most extensive book to date Hell’s Gates (co-published by Coghlan’s own imprint Knowledge Editions and Perimeter Editions) is a vastly expanded reprise of a small-run zine he published in the early 2010s. Comprising lo-res, amateur and public domain photographs of burning churches found online, the book poses questions of iconography, typology and the implications of images. How does mythology affect the way we read images and make meaning; why are some images deemed impossibly offensive, and others not; and just where are the limits of the democracy of images?